Author Archives: Jason Schwartz

About Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz, LMSW, ACSW, CADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director of Dawn Farm, overseeing treatment services for its two residential treatment sites, sub-acute detox, outpatient treatment services & detention-based juvenile treatment program. Jason is also an adjunct faculty at Eastern Michigan University’s School of Social Work and School of Leadership and Counseling. Jason blogs at and has been published in Addiction Professional magazine and in a monograph Recovery-oriented Supervision with the Addiction Technology Transfer Center. Jason serves on the advisory boards of Eastern Michigan University’s School of Social Work and School of Leadership and Counseling. Jason also serves as a board member for the Livonia Save Our Youth Task Force, a substance abuse prevention coalition in his home community.

Book Review: The Recovering Body

download (3)Jennifer Matesa’s The Recovering Body: Physical and Spiritual Fitness for Living Clean and Sober seeks to provide “a roadmap to creating our own unique approach to physical recovery” and frames “physical fitness as a living amends to self–a transformative gift analogous to the “spiritual fitness” practices worked on in recovery.”

She focuses on five areas, blending her own experiences, other recovering people, empirical research and practical to-do lists. The five areas are:

  • exercise and activity
  • sleep and rest
  • nutrition and fuel
  • sexuality and pleasure
  • meditation and awareness

I see two reasons this book is an important contribution to recovery literature.

First, it’s the first book I’ve seen (not that I’m well read in the area) that places such emphasis on physical wellness and self-care as an important element of recovery within traditional 12 step recovery paths. I’ve seen it addressed as an aside, and I’ve seen it offered as an alternative path, but not as an important element within traditional recovery paths.

As researchers and clinicians search for every tool to give addicts any possible edge as they initiate and maintain their recovery, we’d be wise to take notice. There is a growing body of evidence to support Matesa’s assertions that these are important elements of recovery rather than frivolous and indulgent accessories to treatment and recovery programs.

Second, I am convinced that the future of treatment and recovery programs (All chronic disease management programs, really.) should emphasize a lifestyle medicine as the foundation of care. After all, “recovery as a lifestyle” epitomizes one of the things addiction treatment has gotten really right historically and something the rest of chronic disease care could learn from us.

Despite this, professionally directed treatment that discusses the idea of the “recovery of the whole person” has mostly been lip service. Matesa brings this concept to life and presents holistic recovery as a lifestyle to be cultivated, practiced and maintained. On this front, she’s far ahead of professionals and researchers. The field is not there yet and too often equates recovery with swallowing pills or passively doing what professional helpers direct them to do. Matesa bypasses professionals and speaks directly to recovering people as a peer, calling them to action and offering experiential and empirical truth. That’s radical, in the best sense of the word.

Her writing is very accessible, is not preachy, and unpretentiously conveyed a lot of deep truths that I hadn’t considered but seemed self-evident as soon as I read them.

On a personal note, as someone who only started paying attention to physical fitness after 20 years of sobriety, the book takes a lot of previously disparate pieces of information that I vaguely knew to be true and organizes them into framework that not only deepened my understanding, but offered a concrete path to continue enhancing and securing my own recovery. I highly recommend it.

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A Life Rebuilt

We are very proud and excited to present “A Life Rebuilt” by Adam Wright. Adam is a Dawn Farm alumni and made the film about Amy, another alumni.

We love it and hope you’ll love it to.

We hope this is just the first in a series of Dawn Farm films by Adam.

A Life Rebuilt from Dawn Farm on Vimeo.


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We are all connected

photo credit: davegray

photo credit: davegray

I thought we we done with the Robin Williams commentaries, but Pat Deegan just posted a great one.

There were public displays of affection. There were public memorials. Cries went out imploring the public to seek treatment for depression.

But my reaction was somewhat different. I felt angry that Robin Williams took his life. And I felt scared that, completely sober and without the numbness of narcotics, he killed himself. He finally said, “Enough” and then checked out.

To be honest, I felt threatened by Robin Williams’ decision to take his life. I reflected on that for a long time. Why did I feel threatened by his suicide? Eventually, I realized it was because I could relate to his struggle. Recovery is hard work. Treatment does not cure and is often not totally effective in relieving us of symptoms. Those of us with substance use and/or psychiatric disorders are challenged, each and every day, to make the choice to say “yes”. “Carpe diem”, seize the day, said Robin Williams in the Dead Poets Society.

hopeAs I reflected on my reaction to Robin Williams’ suicide, I realized those of us making the journey of recovery are connected. Without even realizing it, I was depending on Robin Williams keeping his sobriety and recovery, to support my own recovery. When he kept going, it emboldened me to keep going. When he gave up, it opened up the frightening possibility that I, too, could choose to give up.

I do not choose to end my struggle, because my life is more than my struggle. I am moving forward in my recovery despite his choice.

The lesson I have learned through Robin Williams’ suicide is that we are all connected. I depend on each of you who are living your recovery. You give me the hope and strength to say “yes” to today. We are connected. Even though I may never have met you, I rely on you to stay true to your journey of recovery. I will stay true to my journey of recovery. Together we shall forge a life and fulfill our human potential, despite the pain.


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Recovery is good business



I just learned of this upcoming talk in Ann Arbor:

Belief, Hope and Generosity in the Workplace: Hiring Individuals in Recovery
Wednesday October 1, 2014: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm — Ann Arbor Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room

Ari Weinzweig believes that a key aspect of managing ourselves is acknowledging the power of belief – and how much, whether we realize it or not, our beliefs impact our lives and our futures.

In this talk, the CEO and co-founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses will take a look at how our beliefs play out in our day to day workplace experiences and how we and our workplaces are impacted by our beliefs. Ari will discuss how what we believe about ourselves, our organization, our coworkers, our boss, the work that we do and our ability to do it will significantly alter the outcomes we get in what we do, and how, wittingly or unwittingly, we go to great lengths to reinforce our beliefs.

zingermans_wisdom_4Zingerman’s has been very good to the recovering community and Dawn Farm. They’ve made Ann Arbor and the recovering community stronger by giving lots of recovering people (often with spotty employment histories) a chance, paying them fairly and providing a growth-fostering workplace. Not surprisingly, small groups of recovering people have developed within their businesses. These groups end up recruiting new employees from withing the recovering community, they support each other, push each other and work together to fulfill Zingerman’s mission:

We share the Zingerman’s Experience
Selling food that makes you happy
Giving service that makes you smile
In passionate pursuit of our mission
Showing love and care in all our actions
To enrich as many lives as we possibly can.

So, recovery is good for business. We’re grateful for Zingerman’s, and I’m pretty sure Zingerman’s is grateful for the recovering community.

Here’s a story we included in a mailing several years back.


Recovery is good business

Or good deli, to be more specific.

The photo above is a collection of men and women who share two great things. They all work for the nationally-known Zingerman’s Delicatessan (that’s co-owner Paul Saginaw on the far left). And all of their lives changed as a result of the programs of Dawn Farm.

Nancy had an addiction that eventually incapacited her. Vince smoked cocaine and injected heroin-and was released from jail to enter Dawn Farm. Betty was a chronic alcoholic, as was Mark, who washed out of school due to his drinking. Jeff and Frank were longtime crack addicts. Pat used a variety of narcotic drugs-that devastated his life. Terry had lost her two children due to her alcoholism.

The stories go from bad to worse. But all of these addicts and alcoholics found a way off the streets through Dawn Farm. These stories all resulted in a miracle-because these men and women are sober and drug-free today. And working at a really great place!

Each of them works full-time. They pay taxes. They rent videos and go grocery shopping. In addition, they all work for a wonderful local employer.

Paul Saginaw and his partners have been hiring Farm graduates for many years. “They really are terrific employees, and I’ve had great success with them over the years.”

Zingerman’s knows that “farmers” know how to work- and they have had a history of good experiences hiring young men and women who’ve been associated with Dawn Farm. “Zingerman’s is great,” offers Betty, “they really make you feel like you’re a part of a family.”

Zingerman’s and Dawn Farm have a unique collaborative relationship in helping these men and women find a way into normal life. The positive culture at Zingerman’s is one that works well with the community of recovery.

The group assembled above have these words for the struggling alcoholic or addict: “You can get better-like we did. You don’t have to live that way anymore. Get some help! Call the Farm, and stay there.”

Paul Saginaw offers his own advice: “When you get out of treatment, come and see me. We’re hiring.”

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Michigan Senate passes 3 bills to make overdose drug more accessible

NARCAN-KITThis is very good news for Michigan:

The state Senate gave final passage today to three bills that will make access to drugs like Narcan, which can successfully reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose, more readily available and require emergency medical personnel to carry the drug with them.

The bills would:

  • Allow Narcan to be prescribed to friends and family of heroin addicts, so it’s readily available in the event of an overdose.
  • Protect a person administering Narcan in good faith to be immune from criminal prosecution or professional sanctions.
  • Require emergency medical personnel to carry the drug in their vehicles and be trained in how to administer it.
  • Require the state Department of Community Health to complete annual reports of opioid-related overdose deaths.

It still needs to go to conference and the governor’s desk.

What’s prompting this?

While heroin deaths are down in Oakland and Wayne counties in recent years, they’re up overall in the state, jumping from 271 deaths in 1999-2002 to 728 in 2010-12, according to statistics compiled by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Admissions to heroin treatment programs also is on the rise, with 12,753 people seeking help for heroin addiction in 2012, compared to 6,500 in 2000.

Now, the big question is, What comes after the overdose rescue? Are these people going to have real access to high quality treatment of adequate duration and intensity?


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The Lancet and drug harms: missing the bigger picture – TBS

Values IcebergA Throw Back Sunday post from 2007 on values and evaluating drug harms.


The Transform Drug Policy Foundation offers a response to the recent Lancet article that ranked drugs by harm. The writer suggest that the article is flawed in two important ways. First he argues that it fails to consider harms caused by the illegal status of the drug. Second, he says that the nature of the paper lends itself to criminalization of the drugs judged to be more harmful.

I’ll use this as an opportunity share an opinion I didn’t share in my original post–it’s impossible to separate values from these kinds of decisions. Values influence which harms are identified, how those harms are ranked, who’s opinion is sought, the intended use influences the design, etc.

UPDATE: I received the following comment from a reader:

“Values influence which harms are identified”. Yes that is a description of what happens at present but is shouldn’t be a prescription for what should happen. If we are to base drug classification on scientific evidence then the aim should be to get as close to objectivity as possible.

Let me clarify. In an ideal world I’d agree with the comment, we could objectively quantify harms and know that there is one set of facts for us to operate from. My judgment is that this is fantasy. For example, purportedly objective American harm reduction discussions tend to very heavily emphasize HIV/AIDS. Why? Because the early American harm reduction advocates were HIV/AIDS advocates.

Other tough questions:

  • Should growing up with an addicted parent be considered a harm? Beyond child protective service cases? If yes, how should this be quantified? If not, why?
  • How about the emotional pain experienced by other family members? If the answer is yes, how should these be weighted relative to the harms caused to children?
  • Should the malaise cast over communities be considered a harm? If one looks at certain communities, American Indian reservations for example, the despair due to alcohol (a legal drug) goes well beyond unemployment. Should the pall addiction can cast over an affected community be considered?
  • Should harms to non-users be weighted more heavily? Based on the belief that the user is exercising personal liberty and assumes risks in doing so?
  • When it comes to making harm reduction policy decisions, one harm reduction strategy can reduce harm to one population and increase risk of harm for another.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad this study was done and I look forward to more studies like it. I’m just convinced that values can’t honestly be eliminated from the equation. It might be helpful to integrate scientific evidence and a discussion the values like liberty, safety, etc.

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We are sane, sober and responsible


Bill White just posted on a cycle that entrenches stigma within some professions.

“There are whole professions whose members share an extremely pessimistic view of recovery because they repeatedly see only those who fail to recover.  The success stories are not visible in their daily professional lives.  We need to re-introduce ourselves to the police who arrested us, the attorneys who prosecuted and defended us, the judges who sentenced us, the probation officers who monitored us, the physicians and nurses who cared for us, the teachers and social workers who cared for the problems of our children, and the job supervisors who threatened to fire us.  We need to find a way to express our gratitude at their efforts to help us, no matter how ill-timed, ill-informed, and inept such interventions may have been.  We need to find a way to tell all of them that today, we are sane and sober and have taken responsibility for our own lives.  We need to tell them to be hopeful, that RECOVERY LIVES!  Americans see the devastating consequences of addiction every day; it is time they witnessed close up the regenerative power of recovery.”




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